Friday, 27 March 2015

Requirement cut would allow council to raise more infrastructure cash

Exeter rapped for cuts to affordable housing

Exeter Council has become the latest local authority to come under fire from a planning inspector for attempting to cut its affordable housing requirements in order to raise more cash from a development tax.

A note from planning inspector Jill Kingaby to Exeter Council revealed the authority had issued a supplementary planning document to cut the level of affordable housing it required in developments from 35 to 25 per cent in February.

This was because the authority believed it would not be able to raise any money through the community infrastructure levy - a tax used to pay for non-housing infrastructure - on these housing sites unless the affordable housing requirement was reduced. The council also told Ms Kingaby it depended on the levy to deliver projects outlined in its core strategy document.

Exeter proposed the reduction when it wrote its draft charging schedule for CIL - less than six months after it had adopted the core strategy which specified the 35 per cent affordable housing requirement.

In the note, Ms Kingaby said: ‘This swift change in the council’s position as to what would constitute a viable level of affordable housing is very surprising.’

She explained that policies in a supplementary planning document must not conflict with the council’s adopted development plan. She said her rough calculations indicated that many schemes could have made some degree of levy payment while still providing 35 per cent affordable housing.

The council expects Ms Kingaby’s final report ‘within the coming months’. She may ask the council to make changes to the CIL document, such as charging the levy on greenfield but not some urban sites while retaining the 35 per cent affordable housing requirement.

A spokesperson for the council said it is preparing a further submission to the examination. It will respond once the final report is available.

In March Mid Devon Council was similarly censured for working out its CIL requirements using a 22.5 per cent affordable housing requirement rather than its 35 per cent policy target.

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